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Trying To Think
Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
Week 3 (17th March 2004)

Thoughts on essay writing:

And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling,
Undisciplined squads of emotion. And what there is to conquer
By strength and submission, has already been discovered
Once or twice, or several times, by men whom one cannot hope
To emulate - but there is no competition -
There is only the fight to recover what has been lost
And found and lost again and again: and now, under conditions
That seem unpropitious. But perhaps neither gain nor loss.
For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.
- T.S. Eliot, East Coker (No. 2 of 'Four Quartets')


- A philosophical account of knowledge details the necessary and sufficient conditions for knowledge. This is a conceptual analysis , not a way to work out how to get or evaluated knowledge. We want to describe the concept of knowledge in terms of other, related concepts. So we can include "truth" in our concept of knowledge (since a claim to knowledge implies that the proposition is true), even though the truth is in practice inaccessible.

Gettier-style problems
Russell: A man looks at the town clock, which has always been reliable in the past. The clock says 1 o'clock, so he claims to know that the time is one o'clock. However, the clock is actually broken, and stuck at one o'clock, so he doesn't have knowledge. As a final twist, it turn out that it really is one o'clock.
So, he has justified true belief, but not knowledge.
- Did he really have justification? Certainly it was not complete, but justification never is. Justification is in degrees, and the degree of justification -> degree of legitimate claim to knowledge (which does not mean a *correct* claim to knowledge).
Ideas:
1. The justification must be related to the truth to count as real justification. There must be a causal relationship. In Russell's clock example, the truth of the time and the justification for believing the time are not related; it is just a coincidence that they are the same. Examination of the justification shows that it is not the right kind. So knowledge is JTB caused and sustained by the facts of the world. This is supposed to be a problem with knowledge of universals (eg. "All human beings have brains"), because there are no facts in the world about these universals (really??).
2. Have a "Gettier defeater" as a fourth criteria of knowledge. In the Gettier counterexamples, there are always facts that, if known, would have prevented JTB. The fourth criteria could be something like "there are no facts that, if known, would be sufficient to remove the justification". I'll be arguing this in the essay still, and just remove the attacks on the concept of truth.

Alternatives to JTB
1. The concept of "objective truth" is not valid. eg. "replacement pragmatism", Rorty, etc. I think you can argue this point without becoming a pragmatist, and I think this is the buddhist position, but this needs more thought.
2. the concept of "conceptual analysis" is not valid. eg. "replacement naturalism", Quinne (who is, of course, a genius), etc. We should explain what knowledge is, not try to describe it in terms of other concepts. Eventually I guess we end up talking about neural nets. And then we stop talking. Normative concepts are about how things ought to be . Replacement naturalism says we should only just descriptive concepts.
3. Knowledge is not an interesting concept, because the truth is inaccessible (yes, this is the same argument that was frowned upon at the start of the lecture as "missing the point". I agree that it doesn't really miss the point, but arguing that takes some time). The interesting thing, and what we always seem to end up talking about, is justification.



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